Koforidua July 08 GNA- Mr Isaac Osei, Chief Executive of the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), on Tuesday warned that any Licensed Buying Company (LBC), which misappropriated cocoa farmers' bonus would be banned and prosecuted.
He said the Government had so far given a total of 16 million Ghana Cedis to LBCs to be paid to cocoa farmers as bonuses as at July 01 this year, adding, that anyone found to be sitting on the farmers money would not be spared.
Mr Osei who said this when he interacted with district chief cocoa farmers, LBCs, cocoa farmers and staff of the COCOBOD drawn from the Eastern Region in Koforidua, also cautioned producer clerks to guard against adjusting their weighing scales to cheat farmers. He told the farmers that the government's commitment to ensure that they lived in dignity could be seen in the upward adjustment in the producer prices of cocoa, adding that, cocoa prices being paid to them, was unprecedented in the history of the cocoa industry. Mr Osei announced that solar street lightning would be provided soon at cocoa growing communities, while 60 kilometer of feeder roads in some selected areas would be tarred.
He said the cocoa farmers housing scheme would be accelerated, adding that, under the programme a farmer was to pay for the cost of the building within 10 years.
The Chief Executive expressed worry about smuggling of cocoa to neighbouring countries and said the government would not sit down unconcerned to spend huge sums of money to subsidy the cost of fertilizers and other chemicals only for the produce to be sold elsewhere.
He advised cocoa farmers in the region whose crops were affected by the Cocoa Swollen Shoot Virus Disease to allow those trees to be cut down, so that they would replanted later. Mr Osei noted with concern that the region hitherto was among the leading ones in cocoa production, but due to the incidence of the swollen shoot disease, it now occupies the fifth position out of the six cocoa growing regions in the country. He earlier paid a courtesy call on Mr Kwadwo Afram Asiedu, Eastern Region Minister, and Daasebre Dr Oti Boateng, Omanhene of the New Juaben Traditional Area.
Mr Afram Asiedu observed that the mass cocoa spraying exercise as well as incentives being given to farmers had resulted in cocoa production being tripled over the past seven years. He appealed to the Chief Executive to investigate complaints by some cocoa farmers that the spraying exercises were being done on partisan basis.
Nana Kakari Addo, Regional Manager, Quality Control Division, COCOBOD, earlier said the region had registered significant increase in cocoa production in spite of the widespread menace of the Cocoa Swollen Shoot Virus Disease in the area.
"The just ended 2007/08 main crop season registered a total grading of 53,364.05 tons, representing about 14 percent increase over the 46,875.01 tons that was realized in 2006/07 crop season". He said the quality of cocoa in the region had also improved tremendously since about 90 percent of the graded and sealed cocoa beans were bigger in size and of exportable quality.
On child labour, Nana Addo said management and staff of COCOBOD in the region had extensively sensitized farmers to send their children to school instead of engaging them on their farms. 8 July 08